THE FIELD GUIDE PROJECT: St. Louis, MO

TEXT & IMAGE: Saja Chodosh

Under the Arch
I want the moon the night we lay in the grass—moonlight spilling across your skin, the twilight of your body breaking. The stars were splitting—opening like petals in damp air. A sliver missing from the moon’s right edge, crumbling as your hand slipped from the crease of my back to the fold of my hip. I felt my spine shatter, as if stepping on a pile of crisp, fall leaves. Light muted, eyes opened, your lips grazed mine. It felt like dawn, but it was night. The dark grass felt wet. The light offered its mystery to us—one last apple stem in Eden. I could tear. I could dangle here. Angled in the sky’s folding canopy. I could break its black film, touch it, feel its weight in the palm of my hand, squeeze it softly, let you brush it, fingering its light in the space between my five knuckles, let it settle on the downward curve between my ribs and waist. Let’s lie here forever, your words trickling. I wish. You knew I broke wishes. Wish bones were bones for a reason. But in these curved wishes, it’s always you—under the stars, tossing soft apples—half bitten, split by teeth, flushed red, caught. It’s so easy to wish flushed things. 

 

A Midwest Gap
I called too
many times last
night. I could hear
your voice sleeping
across the distance
—the Missouri River
(all the numb,
crushed catfish),
The Illinois Dunes

(red sand on
red earth
coughed up
into our lungs, red
lungs), the science
museum near Bloomington
with the bubbles
(kids blow and blow),
light caught between
the sphere
of air and gas.
I could burst.
I could call
a million times
just to say silence
to you.
This gap

is too big
to fill
with silence.
Can love
make us full?
Like the November
evening : we walked
the empty snow-lit
streets (boundless
as the briny Utah flats)
and when the hush
took our breaths,
we snuck
between the smashed
gate latch, into
the kitchen at 2 am—
made love
and popcorn, twisted
salt on the light,
bursting kernels
(glinting crystals)
and squeezed
honey on top.
Vowing over
and over
with lips sticky—
this will be
the final crunched
kernel, the last
grind of salt
on flushed tongue.
Will we always
want more
like this? 

Self Portrait in A Sun Room
I live in a room of
citrus sun & wake with the light
& when rain hits green
in the night, I call the rain
song in my head all day—between
the pause of fetching words
& turning on the wheels
of a torn foam bike seat. 

Today, I ate figs
with honey and let the honey
dance in the ridges of my mouth
while I tapped my fingers
against the hardwood floors
of my bedroom,

 scattered with photographs
and black words I have collected
on white torn sheets

(put a little bird house in your soul)

 & you should know
I like this
scattered feeling
& really, I’m not one to stay
still, & maybe this is
why I string the Libra stars
around my neck:

 balance is a teetering
act and falling is an art
of love, & dreams drip when life strews in
& out like blush steam through a humming coffee pot.

 I think I think

too much about the air & when the moon will swell through my window panes & the thumps of honey crisp apples toppling off the orchard branches at midnight in the fall & what he was thinking when he saw my pink flower dress & my hair soft and curly

 & I could press on, flock the page flung full, because words are like this,

                                                                                            I
                                                                                            
am like this,
                                                                                            
dangled
                                                                                            
between.

 

To End, Again  
I want to say this is a story
about three people
in the midst of June,
but that would be a half
bloomed truth.

 It is may,

            an end
            
& the red road sign calls the names of home.

 The pines are sappy,
the wires strung,
all is caught
within the light blazed
clouds & everyone claims the road

 moves on, the lines
break, the apricot wind
will blow & all the city turns
will be caught
within our mouths like water
in a mossy mist—

            empty wine bottles stuffed still with stale orchids
            
river houses leaned against the high weight of a neighbor
            
the criss-cross church shadow burnt,
            
bruised shoulder spine rubbed, music dangled
            
in a glass jar, all the doors open
            
& the roof key lost—

All will be caught, 
but we drink too much
gin, split the
lines & try to fetch
love we have thrown long
ago: our hearts salted, our thighs
bite, hair pulled home, trapped
on the cascade of currents
& snapping shots to day
the night, to make young
what isn’t, to run
the park reckless
in the midst of May.